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The Model Apartment review at Ustinov Studio, Bath – ‘raw and harrowing’

Diana Quick and Ian Gelder in The Model Apartment at Ustinov Studio, Bath. Photo: Simon Annand
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Ustinov Studio artistic director Laurence Boswell, already renowned for importing challenging works from elsewhere in the world, has opened a season of UK premieres from the Americas, with a raw and harrowing play by Pulitzer Prize-winning US author Donald Margulies.

First performed in Los Angeles 30 years ago, The Model Apartment focuses on a world-weary Brooklyn couple Max and Lola, survivors of the Holocaust, who suddenly collide with the spectre of their past at their new Florida retirement home.

Within hours of arriving, family foundations begin to crumble with the appearance of their insecure, almost maniacal daughter Debby, tormented by everything about the Holocaust that her parents have related over the years.

Margulies’ theme is the way in which children of survivors can be shaped by their parents’ experiences, one not without resonance in today’s world of terror and genocide.

Boswell directs the play’s difficult – at times almost absurdist – combination of riveting dialogue, brutal confrontations and dream sequences with great care, with Ben Ormerod’s high velocity lighting plot adding to the staccato nature of the narrative inside designer Tim Shortall’s bland condo setting.

Bath favourites Diana Quick and Ian Gelder contrast Lola’s fierce maternal protectiveness with Max’s determination to remember his Holocaust experiences only in his dreams. They bring real depth to two irretrievably damaged people, whose family scars have been inherited at great cost by their obsessive daughter Debby (well played by Emily Bruni) and her confused homeless boyfriend Neil (Enyi Okoronkwo).

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Searingly uncomfortable examination of the legacy of the Holocaust